NOT SO CANDID CAMERA
What you see is what you get. Or so it used to be before promoters and television networks began making a mockery of sport to obtain higher ratings. Hard on the heels of the boxing scandal (SI, May 2) come two more incidents of nobbling an event, lying to the public and trying to remake sport in the image of entertainment.
A recent story by John Kennedy in the Staten Island Register reported that the $250,000 winner-take-all tennis match between Jimmy Connors and Manuel Orantes on Feb. 28, 1976 was, in effect, a sham. In the Caesars Palace match televised by CBS, Kennedy reported, Connors had been guaranteed $500,000, win or lose, in an agreement signed by the promoter, Bill Riordan. Orantes would have gotten $250,000 for winning; he got $250,000 for losing.
A front-page story by Neil Amdur in The New York Times last week revealed that a similar $250,000 winner-take-all match between Connors and Ilie Nastase, played March 5, also was a con. Connors again was guaranteed $500,000, win or lose, said the Times, and Nastase $150,000. The promoter again was Riordan, who, when asked why millions of television viewers were not told the truth about the CBS telecast, said, "I would definitely accept the blame for that."
May 15, 1977
CBS, however, is equally to blame for advertising the matches as winner-take-all, as are the players, who knew the billing was fraudulent.
What is sport is usually entertaining. What is entertaining, however, is not always sport. Until the people who promote these events understand the difference, don't believe everything you see.
SWEET TASTE OF SUCCESS
Long before Reggie Jackson decided to join the Yankees, he boasted, "If I played in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me."
Jackson knew whereof he spoke. Standard Brands, which makes Baby Ruth, among a variety of other foodstuffs, last week unveiled a new candy bar. It's called Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.
Sales may lag in Baltimore, where they probably will call it Boo, Boo, Boo.
MY SON, THE COVER
Grandparents are fond of showing photographs of their progeny and bragging about their accomplishments. The late Bold Ruler, for one, could have shown a stableful of SI covers. With this issue, the champion sire, who himself made the May 6, 1957 cover, has had a total of seven descendants similarly honored, including son Secretariat, grandsons Cannonade, Foolish Pleasure and Bold Forbes, and now great-grandson Seattle Slew. Even if Slew had slowed, great-granddaddy would have had a right to be proud. The Derby place horse, Run Dusty Run, is also a great-grandson, and the show horse, Sanhedrin, is a grandson. Grandsons Bob's Dusty and For The Moment (shown on cover with Slew) and grandson Flag Officer also attended Saturday's family reunion.
Houston's morning newspaper, the Post, is represented in a city softball league by a team of employees who call themselves the Post Mortems. The team borrowed its motto from the newspaper, which claims "We get there first and stay all day." The players' jerseys declare: WE GET TO FIRST AND STAY ALL DAY.
STUNT MAN UPSTAGED
Bill Giles, executive vice-president and promotional zealot of the Philadelphia Phillies, has outdone himself this year in an effort to set a Veterans Stadium attendance record.
On opening day, for instance, the first ball was delivered by Parachute Man, who dived out of a Cessna at 3,500 feet (degree of difficulty—plenty), free-fell 1,500 feet and then chuted to second base. On College Night, Giles had a dozen area schools challenge the unofficial world record for stacking bodies on a mattress (44). Lehigh improved it to 71.
Still to come are Bat Day, Team Jersey Day, Teen Night, Fireworks Night, Backpack Day and Crazy Night. The latter promotion will feature Nerveless Nocks, a sway-pole artist; Dave Merrifield, who will perform on a trapeze suspended from a helicopter; and Benny (The Human Bomb) Koske, who does his act in an exploding coffin.
Giles also wants to use the stadium someday as the setting for Aida. "I've never seen the opera," he says, "but I've heard segments of it and I'd like to put it on here with all of the elephants and other animals."
Philadelphia attendance has increased by 25,652 over the same number of home dates a year ago, but one act probably has prevented Giles from attracting still more fans. The Phillies, last year's division winners, are in fifth place.
EL TORO TANGLEFOOT
The matador strikes his classic pose: erect, defiant, master of 1,000 pounds of angry toro bravo. The bull paws the earth, lowers its lethal horns and thunders toward its tormentor—only to slip horns over hoof on an invisible banana peel. Back on its feet, the dazed beast is even money to take several more headers before the tragicomedy finally ends.
The apparent victims of overbreeding, fighting bulls are falling all over Spain's plazas de toros these days. The phenomenon has become so commonplace that a Madrid veterinarians' organization is offering $25,000 to anyone who can come up with an explanation and a remedy. But clumsy bulls are only one of several problems plaguing a sport that may be going the way of the donkey cart in modern Spain.
Spanish bullfighting is in a decline. It is no longer the national sport and the matador de tows is no longer a public hero. In part, the change is sociological. As Spain pulls itself into the postindustrial age, its young men are more interested in the rewards of consumerism than in risking their lives in the bullring. There are new escapes from poverty and, evidently, new ways for the public to amuse itself. Attendance at corridas is falling—because of changing attitudes toward the sport's undoubted cruelty, perhaps—and bullring impresarios in Madrid, at least, have found political rallies more profitable than bullfights. As gate receipts have decreased, demands from breeders, matadors and picadors have escalated. Spain's bullfight peones struck for higher pay this year and nearly forced cancellation of the Valencia Fair, which annually kicks off the season. The final settlement provided a raise for the peones, with a resultant increase in ticket prices and a decrease in attendance.
Meanwhile, the bulls keep falling. The recent ferias of Valencia and Seville were ruined because many of the tows were on their knees half the time. In the year's first televised feria, one bull fell five times in a 90-second period. There are several theories why the bulls fall, but no one has yet come up with a definitive answer. Some blame inferior feed. Others believe the problem began during the heyday of El Cordobés, now retired, whose spectacular style attracted a huge audience for bullfighting and an equally huge demand for bulls. In the rush to provide quantity, quality was sacrificed and an inner-ear defect may have become dominant after several generations of bulls. In the old days, substandard bulls were rejected and replaced. No longer; it is too expensive. So the fight goes on—during those moments when the bull is on its feet.
As every NBA fan knows, John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics has spent few stationary moments on the basketball court. Just how far Havlicek has run, however, may stun even Red Auerbach.
Earlier this season Havlicek received a pedometer for his birthday. In a game against Chicago, he strapped it on and, running with the zest that belies his 37 years, logged eight miles in 43 minutes' playing time. Applying these figures to Havlicek's 15-season career, Hondo probably qualifies as history's greatest distance runner—on wood.
Counting his NBA regular season, playoff and All-Star Game appearances, Havlicek has a grand total of 50,815 minutes, or 846.92 hours, of playing time. If he covered up to eight miles every 43 minutes—and he undoubtedly ran more earlier in his career—that's a total of 9,453.95 miles, a distance equivalent to 360 Boston Marathons. Throw in Havlicek's high school and collegiate games and it is reasonable to assume he has traveled more than 10,000 miles across the gym floors of America.
Way to go, John.
FORTUNA'S ILL FORTUNE
As its 2-14 record will attest, this has not been the best of all possible baseball seasons for Fortuna High School of Eureka, Calif.
In a game at Del Norte High, for example, the bases were loaded with two outs. Just as the Huskies' Dan Gibbs released the ball after his windup, a decidedly pernicious wind blew his cap off. On the way to the plate, the ball went into the cap. They traveled together about three feet before the wind blew the cap to the shortstop. The ball fell off to the left, about 20 feet in front of the mound, before slowly dribbling out of the park through a gate.
All the runners moved up one base. Fortuna lost, 15-5.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
The Super Bowl telecast moves into prime time in January with the maximum cost of a one-minute commercial—now priced at $288,000—expected to increase for the evening viewing hour. CBS, which has paid the NFL $3.5 million for TV rights to the game, is expected to have to pony up another $1 million for the time shift.
For the U.S. Collegiate Sports Council, the above numbers are both frustrating and ironic. Charged with the task of sending a U.S. team to the World University Games in Sofia, Bulgaria in August, the council has yet to find any corporation willing to donate money to sponsor the team. So far, the USCSC has realized less than 15% of the $378,000 needed to send a full team to the games, an Olympics-like international competition for college athletes between the ages of 17 and 28. The money the council has may be enough only to send the gymnastics and swimming teams, 16 fewer teams than a full contingent.
When the World University Games were last staged, in Moscow in 1973, the U.S. entered a full squad for the first time. Unless new money is forthcoming, it also may be the last.
Those watching the eighth race at Massachusetts' Suffolk Downs on closed-circuit TV two weeks ago thought something had gone wrong with the sets. There on the screen was Jockey Vinnie Amico with a long, ghostly "thing" streaming from his neck. Those who were watching the race live knew what the "thing" was, but could scarcely believe what had happened.
Just as the horses broke from the gate, a runaway kite dived into the infield, its 200-foot string stretching across the track like a clothesline. Amico, aboard Mr. Domenic F., rode into the string, which became entangled around his neck. As Jockey Jimmy McCloskey aboard Cartour moved up behind Amico, he too became entangled in the string. For nearly a furlong it was neck and neck—jockeys, not horses—until McCloskey managed to free himself from the string at the eighth pole. Amico carried the string to the wire, where he finished out of the money. As he pulled his horse up, he glumly unwound the string from his neck. The crowd, which sent Mr. Domenic F. off as the 8-to-5 favorite, wasn't happy, either. No one claimed the kite.
THEY SAID IT
•Lloyd Free of the Philadelphia 76ers when asked whether he was nervous during a recent NBA playoff game: "I'm from New York. Other than riding those subways at night, do New Yorkers ever get nervous?"
•Rick Barry on the NBA slam-dunk contest: "Next year they ought to have one for all the white guys who can't jump."
•Steve Sloan, Texas Tech football coach, on his 334-pound reserve center, Mike Keeney: "We have him on a lettuce diet. He's now eating 40 pounds of lettuce a day."